Let there be light!

interior lightingIf you want to enhance your office, we would suggest beginning with a (mostly) top down approach: lighting. Changing the lighting is a quick and effective way to boost employee morale, improve health and the overall aesthetic of your commercial interior space. After all, this is where you spend the majority of your waking life, at least for those of us who don’t work from home, so a little effort in this area could yield big dividends.

A few quick rules of thumb:

  • If your lights are dramatic, it makes sense if your space is minimalistic as this creates contrast. After all, you are not taking your decorating cues from Liberace.
  • Pay a little extra now to save more in the long run. In the typical U.S. commercial building, lighting accounts for close to 35 percent of electricity use, taking a bite out of profits. So even if you are shelling out money for CFL bulbs now, your replacement costs will be less over the long term.
  • Figure out what you want because you can’t have it all. Do you want low operating costs? Are you trying to keep maintenance to a minimum? Is reducing your carbon footprint important? Have you been unhappy with lighting in the past, and why?

Most lighting fits into one of three main categories: ambient, task, and accent.

Ambient describes the general background lighting that is bright enough to allow people to move about safely and perform simple tasks. Ambient lighting can be achieved by directly lighting the lower part of the room (direct lighting), or by reflecting light off the ceiling and upper half of the room (indirect lighting).

Task lighting is bright light directed to a specific surface, like a countertop or desk, to illuminate activities such as reading, homework, meal preparation, or laundry. For reading and desk work, task lighting should be bright and well diffused and come from the side or from over the shoulders. You can diffuse light with a carefully selected lampshade or by partially covering the bulb.

Accent lighting, sometimes called “object lighting,” directs light to specific objects, such as artwork, furniture, plants, or architectural features. You will often see accent lighting in the lobby area or high ceilings in a commercial space.

Now that you know why it’s an easy choice and the different kinds of lighting options, it’s helpful to know why a lighting overhaul will benefit your employees.

Some common complaints resulting from poor lighting include:

  • Difficulty seeing document or screen (too much light or glare, or too little light or shadows),
  • Eyestrain,
  • Eye irritation,
  • Blurred vision,
  • Dry burning eyes, and
  • Headaches.

Poor lighting can also contribute to stiff necks and aches in shoulder area. These problems can occur when people adopt poor or awkward postures when trying to read something under poor lighting conditions. Many of these ailments result in lower productivity, missed work for appointments, etc.

Solutions: It is important to have the right kind of lighting for the task at hand. In an area with many computers, too much light can negatively affect employee’s ability to read as the screen is already giving off a lot of light. If employees are working with both the computer and printed documents, make sure you have task lighting near, but not too close to their computer screens.

Another solution is to try and incorporate as much natural light as possible. Studies have shown that natural lighting can increase your mood, focus and productivity. According to scientific studies, people respond positively to natural light and feel more alert, reporting a greater a sense of general well-being.

Keeping windows uncovered, allowing the ingress of natural sunlight, replace light bulbs with full-spectrum lights which better imitate the appearance of natural lighting. You may also want to evaluate whether you can move employees into underutilized areas that have natural light. If you are designing a workspace from the ground up, a designer can work with you to look at how much natural light you can harness.

Planning Interiors has worked with many clients to improve the lighting in their commercial spaces and we would love to share our portfolio and ideas with you. Give us a call at 470.545.4906 to discuss.


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